Miami-Dade County

It’s a wrap: Miami-Dade mayor foils baggage-wrap restrictions

Wrapping luggage in plastic for protection on international flights is big business at Miami International Airport. Travelers preparing to fly to Cuba from MIA in this 2009 file photo get their luggage wrapped before their flight.
Wrapping luggage in plastic for protection on international flights is big business at Miami International Airport. Travelers preparing to fly to Cuba from MIA in this 2009 file photo get their luggage wrapped before their flight. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

A plan to crack down on baggage wrapping at Miami International Airport failed on Tuesday as Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez defeated an effort to override his veto of legislation that would for the first time regulate outside wrappers.

Two commissioners, Bruno Barreiro and Rebeca Sosa, flipped to Gimenez’s side, handing a defeat to Secure Wrap, the influential company with the lone contract to operate baggage-wrapping kiosks in the airport itself. Commissioners supporting the new rules needed eight votes Tuesday to override Gimenez’s veto, and fell one short in a 7-5 decision reached without debate.

Originally passed on a 10-2 vote Oct. 6, the new rules would have required outside wrappers to comply with the same standards on plastic wrap that are laid out in Secure Wrap’s MIA contract.

Gimenez and MIA officials described the proposed rules as imposing a costly burden on the airport and airlines, even though bags wrapped off-site were causing no significant issues at MIA. Commissioners touted the plan as a way to support Secure Wrap, which has a revenue-sharing provision in its contract, and protect travelers from shoddy wrapping services. Popular with international travelers, baggage wrap seals luggage in plastic as a protection against pilfering once the bags move into secure areas of the airport.

Tuesday’s vote capped an intense lobbying and public-relations effort by the Gimenez administration to sustain Miami-Dade’s first mayoral veto since late 2013. In an interview, Gimenez said he went into the meeting knowing he had locked up enough votes to sustain his Oct. 14 veto. Sosa told reporters she had heard from constituents angry about possibly seeing their baggage-wrap options narrowed; Barreiro said his discussions with American Airlines and MIA executives persuaded him to support Gimenez.

Instead of threatening us with a lawsuit, maybe they should just sit down, comply with the audit that we’re doing right now.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez

County rules require a two-thirds vote of commissioners present at a meeting to override a mayoral veto. Commissioner Javier Souto, one of the 10 commissioners who voted for the rules on Oct. 6, did not attend Tuesday’s meeting. That meant eight votes were needed to override the veto, and Gimenez needed to flip two votes to his side.

Voting to override the veto were Juan C. Zapata, the original sponsor of the baggage-wrap rules, Esteban “Steve” Bovo, Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Audrey Edmonson, Barbara Jordan, Dennis Moss and Xavier Suarez. Joining Barreiro and Sosa on the side that upheld the veto: Sally Heyman, who missed the original vote, and Chairman Jean Monestime and Daniella Levine Cava, responsible for the only two No votes on Oct. 6.

Secure Wrap executives declined to comment after the vote. The company operates under the brand “Safe Wrap” and brought about 40 people in blue “Safe Wrap” shirts with the slogan “Save Our Jobs” on the front.

At a meeting with Gimenez on Monday afternoon, Secure Wrap president Radames “Michi” Villalón repeated his warning that he would sue Miami-Dade for $50 million if the proposed rules don’t take effect, Gimenez said. Miami-Dade’s audit department reports to Gimenez, and it recently launched an audit of Secure Wrap. Last week, the agency rejected the company’s request to keep confidential all documents turned over to the county.

“Instead of threatening us with a lawsuit, maybe they should just sit down, comply with the audit that we’re doing right now,” Gimenez said after the vote. “And then, depending on what the audit findings are, we’ll be happy to sit down and renegotiate.”

The company maintains the county contract it won in 2013 requires MIA to begin enforcing rules on plastic-wrap that were established for the airport by Miami-Dade and the Transportation Security Administration. MIA officials maintain the rules were only designed to manage Secure Wrap’s role as the in-house wrapper, which comes with it the ability to re-wrap luggage opened by a TSA inspector in the secure areas of the airport.

Secure Wrap has been a significant donor to commission reelection campaigns, giving more than $50,000 since 2014.

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